Album Review: Dakota Jones – Heartbreakers Space Club
The second album, Heartbreakers Space Club, by New York-based band Dakota Jones, is finally here. Produced in-house by their own bassist, Scott Jet Kramp, the album is the highly anticipated follow up to their debut Black Light.
Dakota Jones’ first album was fantastic, but it had a different attitude to Heartbreakers. Simpler, more steeped in the retro tradition of pop-oriented soul. It was a fairly melodic album that in parts echoed Lana Del Ray. If you want to hear more about that, my excellent colleague Jayant Sankrityayana wrote a reviewon it back in 2021.
This album is more experimental. A mix of upbeat and slow-moving, there is a certain futuristic element to many of the tracks, which blends so well with the classic soul-voice of Jones. Ziggy Stardust was apparently a big influence on the album, which comes across, in a good way. If Bowie, Carole King, Lana Del Ray, and maybe something solidly funk-based like Parliament were put in a machine, Dakota Jones and Heartbreakers might come out.
Black Light was a debut album, and it makes sense they paused their more experimental tendencies to make a good impression, but now the band seem happy and comfortable enough with their sound to push the boundaries of their music.
Moon Song kicks off the album with a mantra being barked out from Jones, as if she is calling us to rise up and fight against bland, unimaginative music. The tempo builds up until the chorus where she slows it down again and the song slips into ballad. This album keeps you guessing, but without losing any listenability.
Tracks like Countdown are more on the pop side of things, easy listening, butfull of nuanced background music that gives it more weight than a normal mainstream single.
Break It Down has a beautiful mix of soul, blues and pop; it sounds great at home, it would undoubtedly sound even better live, and the song is driven by Tristan Carter-Jones’s powerful voice. The songs would sound good if they were nothing but her voice calling out to you. The added bonus of a talented group of musicians experimenting with sound raises the band to a higher level.
Dakota Jones are from New York, and the city is very much a member of the band. Their sound is uniquely New Yorker, in the way the Clash could not have been from anywhere but London, or the way Bugzy Malone screams Manchester. You can feel the influence of the city in the band. Even the Black Light album cover, Jones wearing a gold crown to a red background, is reminiscent of Biggie in his crown and Basquiat before him – although maybe 2015 Rihanna was also an influence here, and who can blame her.
If there is a criticism of the album, perhaps a little too poppy in parts, although that does come down to taste. They do their pop songs well. It is also only ten songs, and I find myself listening to the album through and then through again. More songs, more Dakota Jones would be no bad thing. The experimental elements of the album are exciting, particularly when backed up with the deeply powerful voice of Jones. Dakota Jones are going nowhere but up.
Heartbreakers Space Club will be released via Lord Please Records on June 2 2023